I have lost a lot of love in my life by insisting on being right. I lost the love after the argument when I am proven wrong. And I lost the love after the argument even (especially?) when I am right.
If you want to avoid those type of hurtful losses, challenge yourself: What is the result you are seeking in any debate or simple discussion where there may be disagreement?
If the result you seek is to somehow make ourselves feel good by trying to make the person look bad, then repeating clichés and slogans might work for you. Or insulting them. Interrupting and not listening. Doggedly hanging onto your argument despite how reasonable fact-driven the other person might be. Or appeal to others who agree with you who are observing the discussion by saying things—on topic or not—that will trigger their support for you and incite them to jump in on your side. Play to the audience, in other words. All of these tactics will allow you to feel triumphant about “your side”.
What would happen if you changed the definition of “your side” away from defending your position at all costs, to being open to the possibility of gaining an even better view of the issues under discussion? Then “your side” would have been improved, yes? And by handling the discussion this way, the other person is far more likely to do the same thing. (That person started with a “side” as well.) What can happen here is that the two sides come closer to being one side.
Let’s use this possibility to have some fun with arithmetic. If two people are arguing, not listening and insisting on being right, it can be represented arithmetically: 1 – 1 = 0. One minus one equals zero. Each participant detracts from everything the other has said, with zero learning or progress. The other person had a “side”, too. And they were just as convicted. Similarly, two people in a discussion with the idea of listening learning and possibly improving their viewpoint can be represented by: 1 + 1 = 3. One plus one equals three. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Both sides have learned, and, who knows, may team up rather than remain opposites.
Imagine a world if we sought first to find common ground (Among men and women of good will, there is always common ground, if you make an honest and patient search for it.). For example, could anyone disagree with the common ground in K-12 education being the best possible education at an efficient cost to taxpayers? Discussion rages in this area with both sides assuming that the other does not have this as their end goal.
To discuss/argue in the way productive way recommended here, you’d have to let go of defending your ego as the desired result, and substitute making things better as the goal. In other words, you would change the desired result from being right to finding the right? Of course, you’d have to be open to those two not always being the same…☺.
Know your desired result, e.g., are you trying to win or improve yourself and the world around you (you can’t do both), find the common ground, agree on facts (the law calls those pesky things evidence), apply non-agenda driven reasoning, and look out. You are on you way to one, improving the specifics of how the topics under discussion are handled in the world and two, discovering that we are not so different one from the other after all.
Nurture this process with love and patience, ground it in gratitude that you get to be involved, and there will be progress. Repetition, while maintaining the patience, love and gratitude, will keep the progress on both fronts increasing, and increasing at an increasing speed. Change yourself; change the world.
“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.
I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.
My family and I could have made an impact on our town.
Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”
– Written by an unknown Monk around 1100 A.D.
Will Luden, writing from my home office at 7,200 feet in Colorado Springs.
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